JEEWAN RAMLUGUN

‘Shere’ bliss

High up the hill open vistas

of untended grasslands

on one side, where crows

in vast numbers their feeds

find; at other times

pheasants can be spotted, shy

and elusive,

the alluring shire scenes

stretching far into the distance.

The freshly tilled undulating

tracts of land on the other side

are flanked by woods, enchanting,

with the skyline of iconic city

landmarks, notably The Shard,

the cosmopolitan capital’s hubbub

a far cry.

Amid such superb

pastoralness and rural grandeur,

the heart is at its happiest,

the spirit at its serenest.

I have long held the English Countryside in the highest regard, having crisscrossed many of its breathtaking and captivating landscapes, admiring its pleasant pastures, its rolling plains and its more dramatic vistas.

The Surrey Hills, however, would take some beating on account of their sheer splendour, justifiably designated ‘An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.

What follows is based upon impressions from several journeys of joy that with my wife and I have been undertaking by car through the Surrey Hills.

Heading along through the Guildford suburb of Burpham, known for its Sutherland Memorial Park, and past Clandon Park, an excitement predictably builds up when half a mile or so a right turning leads up a steep hill and, on the brow, a rough and ready lay-by offers a temporary stop to take in the outlying scenes stretching far into the distance.

It is a moment for some refreshment with tasty accompaniments, while delighting in the spectacular sceneries. When not entirely clear, the sky shows its many colours, through clouds of varied formations, birds in their great numbers in the air, and on an evening the most glorious sunset is to be seen. It is a perfect pastoral picture.

Then a bendy descent leads out of this hill and into the main road toward Dorking. Along the way are the quaint and picturesque villages of Shere, Gomshall, Peaslake, Abinger Hammer and Abinger Common. Some of these areas have been historically associated with tanning and weaving. Fetching-looking old timber-framed houses with beams as far back as 1560 are dotted here and there.

Continuing the route, just beyond Wotton, is the entrance to magical Leith Hill. A long, and in places very narrow and sinuous the drive lasts for some 2 miles, in the summer months under thick overarching canopies of tree leaves, with sunlight scintillatingly percolating on a bright day. When grey and sombre, headlights would have to be turned on. It gets that dark. There are scatterings of dwellings all along, in perfect peace. At the highest points through some clearings, the views can be stunningly beautiful, especially when there is mist and sunlight together. It is on these places that we look out for the shy delightful looking pheasants. When not spotted, the sight of sheep grazing in the small field is a compensation. There is the Leith Hill Tower for an interesting historical landmark, atop which through a telescope Wembley Stadium and the London Eye are visible. Leith Hill is rich in wildlife and there are a few forest walks. Leith Hill is a high point of the journey.

Onward through open heath lands, wheat-fields and pastures, continues the way toward the market own of Dorking, whose symbol is a huge white cockerel proudly erected in the middle of a roundabout.

Past the Denbigh Vineyard, a short distance away is the well-known Box Hill, a summit of the North Downs of Surrey. It is so named after the box woodland on its steep chalk slopes to the west. It is a very popular visiting site. It has been voted the most favoured bicycle climb in the world. A Forest bathing events also take place as well as organized walks.